Turning Food Passion Into Profession: Chef and Content Creator Does It All

From creating recipe videos for her TikTok audience, cooking in her husband’s restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen for her thriving meal delivery service business, and writing her own cookbooks, Nupur Arora is a little bit of a master of all the cooking trades. She entered the entrepreneurial world just before COVID-19 hit and, despite the challenges, turned it into a thriving business.

| 13 Nov 2023 | 01:49

To its far flung fans, nothing fosters intense nostalgia as much as being alone and away from family and friends during Diwali, which has its grand finale this year on November 12. You could light up your new home, fill it with festive music and regalia, and still, it’s not quite the same as waking up to a noisy household with the smell and sizzle of crisp-hot puris (a deep-fried South Asian flatbread) and boxes of mithai (assortment of sweets) lined-up across tabletops and overflowing onto different corners of the home. Then there’s the house-hopping in search of the best sweets and namkeen (an assortment of savory fried items) while stuffing your face at every stop.

It’s hard to replicate the same atmosphere in your box-sized New York home. And yet, Nupur Arora, a home cook turned foodpreneur, has been helping South Asian New Yorkers taste a bite of home in the comfort of their apartments through her meal-kit delivery business, Queens Curry Kitchen since 2020. This year, in addition to her weekly meal kits, which feature everything from stuffed bell peppers, pani puris (bite-size crispy puffed balls filled with potato, chickpeas, onions, spices, and flavored water, usually tamarind or mint), and Amritsari chole (chickpea) to Dal (lentil), she’s also introduced an assortment of festive-friendly packages, including a box of besan laddoo (sweet made with gram flour, ghee, and powdered sugar), meethey parey (bite-sized fried sugar sticks), chiwda (savory mix), and more.

Arora’s entrepreneurial venture first began as an act of community service. As a New Delhi native, she grew up in a place where people lived for food and had the most diverse iterations and varieties. She brought some of that with her when she married her husband at 23 and moved halfway across the world to a unfamiliar, new place, Queens. First, there was her big joint family of eight, and then after, there were potlucks and meals for neighbors. Then, when the pandemic hit, she channeled her passion for cooking toward a cause and began preparing, cooking, and personally delivering meal kits to the elderly community in Rego Park, Queens.

“Helping people heal through food means everything to me,” shared Arora, who–like other small businesses–suffered hefty losses during the pandemic and still survived.

Once her neighbors had tasted some of the more popular Indian dishes such as the rajma masala (kidney bean curry) and chana dal palak (lentil mixed with spinach), “[They] put my food on Facebook, and then people from all over the city began reaching out,” said Arora who found herself flooded with requests for her homestyle vegan meals and now delivers all over Manhattan. These days, in addition to being a full-time solopreneur, Arora is also an employee at her Husband’s Hell’s Kitchen Indian restaurant, Mughlai, where she manages the back of the house. When I met her a few weeks before Diwali, she rushed into the restaurant at 6:45 pm — 15 minutes later than her shift began—on a drizzly Wednesday evening. And still, she had the brightest smile as she made her way through the crowd of early diners to the back of the house.

An hour earlier, she had finished working her day job—mapping out the marketing and communications strategies for 2024 for Queens Curry Kitchen, her one-stop food shop featuring Indian spice blends, cookbooks, and weekly meal kit menus. Now, she was all set to work her second shift, from 6:45 pm until, well, whenever the last diner leaves. “I’m so sorry to have kept you waiting. Let me get you some chai or mango lassi,” she says to me while half sitting opposite and half standing, her feet pointing outwards, always ready to make the run. For Nupur, who has juggled multiple roles in her personal and professional spheres, being in several places at once comes so naturally that it has become part of her identity.

In another life, years ago, Arora was also a fashion entrepreneur who ran her label in New York, “but even then, I found myself cooking for everyone. On shoot days when I didn’t have enough money to pay the models, the arrangement was that I’d cook them butter chicken,” Arora tells me between taking orders, serving tables, and managing takeouts. When I ask her if she ever feels tired from the constant cycle, she reveals that the cooking process itself is therapeutic for her, although only when she is doing it for other people. “I can’t be bothered to make a fresh hot meal for myself; it’s not as exciting.”

Thanks to her passion for feeding others, several busy New Yorkers have hot, home-cooked healthy meals delivered to their doorstep and, during the festive season, a slice of home away from home.